Part 3: JFR Trial – The Indictment
[Note: If you do not have time to read the summarized indictment, then read my Summary Comments below. This gets good.]
JW Views of the events: The Society gives the JWs the impression that the indictment against Rutherford & company was all about the ”Finished Mystery book, and the prophetic fulfillment that all-important book played in the ‘death’ of the ‘two Witnesses’ spoken of in Revelation. It was meat in due season! Spiritual food for which Satan and his worldly government found offensive enough in its declaration of God’s Kingdom, that they railroaded Rutherford and company off to prison ... aka persecution. Satan did not want Jehovah’s Kingdom declared as the incoming King-elect, Jesus Christ was taking his Throne in heaven ... and expelling Satan and a third of the angels to earth. This is big stuff, and JWs were made to feel that this event had major Biblical significance!
Introduction re: Indictment: The indictment is long, repetitive, with much use of legalese wordiness. I will open with the initial phrases in the Indictment used to introduce Count 1, but eliminate the repetitive “Official-ese” by summarize the unique aspects of Counts 2, 3, and 4.
Before you read it, there are a couple of items to understand.
1. The Society and its named defendants were under investigation for months. The Grand Jury met between April 3rd, 1918 through May 6th, 1918 to consider the evidence and decide on an Indictment. The Indictment was issued May 6th, 1918, and arrests were made May 8th, 1918. When a Grand Jury convenes, often the ‘potential’ defendants get wind of this, or may even be called to give testimony prior to an indictment. Defendants are not accompanied by lawyers before Grand Juries. Other than the language in the Indictment itself, I understand that the testimony given is not used directly in the Trial.
2. Grand Jury hearings and testimony are sealed, and never released to the public. The only way we can know of anything stated in Grand Jury sessions is if one of the ‘witnesses’ decides to speak publicly. I have no direct information on what Rutherford or his legal team knew prior to May 8th, 1918, but I suggest the possibility that the Defense was aware of these proceedings based in comments made during pre-trial. If true, then this “awareness” would have given them additional time to make pre-trial preparations.
3. The Search Warrants issued were both in Pennsylvania and New York, allowing the Government to seize records and documents at both locations. Some JWs have the idea that only the New York Headquarters was raided. Additional documentation was provided directly by witnesses not associated with the Society, and some associated and known as members of the Bible Students.
4. The ”Finished Mystery” book was NOT a major part of the evidence collected as implied by the Society. Rather it was other documentation that was mostly the bone of contention ... primarily correspondence between the officers of the Society and individuals on “Active Duty” in the United States Military during a Declared War. This is the crux of the Government’s case.
The Indictment: “At a Stated Term of the District Court of the United States of America, for the Eastern District of New York, begun and held in the Borough of Brooklyn, City of New York, within and for the District aforesaid, on the third day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighteen, and continued by adjournment to and including the sixth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighteen.
Eastern District of New York as:
The Grand Jurors of the United States of America, within and for the district aforesaid, on their oaths present that on the sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and seventeen, a joint resolution was adopted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States declaring a state of war between the United States of America and the Imperial German Government, and that on said date the President of the United States of America issued a proclamation that such a state of war existed, and continually from the said date until the present time an open and public war was and is still being prosecuted and carried on between the United States of America and the said Imperial German Government.
That during the period from the sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and seventeen, to the date of the filing and presentation of this Indictment the United States has been at war with the Imperial German Government, and during said period of time Joseph F. Rutherford, William E. Van Amburgh, Robert J. Martin, Fred H. Robinson, George H. Fisher, Clayton J. Woodworth, Giovanni De Cecca, and A Hugh MacMillan (hereinafter called defendants), at the Borough of Brooklyn, County of Kings, State and Eastern District of New York and within the jurisdiction of this Court, unlawfully and feloniously did conspire, combine, confederate and agree together, and with divers other persons to the said Grand Jurors unknown, to commit a certain offense against the United States of America, to wit: the offense of unlawfully, feloniously and willfully causing insubordination, disloyalty and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States of America when the United States was at war, to the injury of the military and naval forces of the United States of America, and to the injury of America, in, through and by personal solicitations, letters, public speeches, distributing and publicly circulating throughout the United States of America a certain book called “Volume VII, Bible Studies, The Finished Mystery,” and distributing and publicly throughout the United States certain articles printed in pamphlets called “Bible Student’s Monthly,” “Watch Tower,” “Kingdom News” and other pamphlets not named, which said book and pamphlets were to be published and distributed throughout the Eastern District of New York, and throughout other sections of the United States of America, and which said solicitations, letters, speeches, articles, books and pamphlets would and should persistently urge insubordination, disloyalty and refusal of duty in the said military and naval forces of the United States of America, to the injury of the United States of America, and to its military and naval forces. The said defendants, and each of them, in furtherance of said conspiracy did commit the following:
(Note: Each Count restates the same type of language above, so I have simply culled out the legal jargon, and summarized each Count. I have inserted “ ... ” where such introductory language is eliminated. Also, I have Bolded certain elements of the Counts those items new to me, and stand out as more serious than what was published in the Finished Mystery book.)
1. ... the said defendants, and each of them, did compile and caused to be compiled certain reports, and did add to them certain original writings, in the production of a book, hereinbefore mentioned, called “Volume VII, Bible Studies, The Finished Mystery,” ...
2. ... the said defendants, and each of them did publish and cause to be published the said book,” ... and did cause the same to be copyrighted in the name of the People’s Pulpit Association.
3. ... the said defendants, and each of them, did distribute and cause to be distributed to one Jerry De Cecca and one Carmelo Nicita, while said Jerry De Cecca and Carmelo Nicita were members of the military forces of the United States of America, attached to Camp Devens, and to certain other persons to the Grand Jurors unknown ... the said book ...
4. the said defendants, and each of them, received a letter written in Italian from one Frank D’Onofrio, at that time a member of the military forces of the United States of America, addressed to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, ... made and caused to be made a translation into English, a true and correct copy ...
5. ... the said defendants, and each of them, did distribute and cause to be distributed to Carmelo Nicita and Jerry De Cecca, members of the military forces of the United States of America, copies of the translation of the said ... letter ...
6. ...the said defendants, and each of them, reprinted and caused to be reprinted a certain letter which they had received, dated the nineteenth day of September, nineteen hundred and sixteen, signed by Clara Cerulli, containing an account of the trial of one Remigio Cuminetti, an alleged member of the International Bible Students Association, for a violation of the military law in Italy ... and each of them, did distribute and cause to be distributed to various persons whose names are to the Grand Jurors unknown ...
7. ... the said defendants, and each of them, did cause to be printed and distributed throughout the United States of America, particularly men subject to become members of the military forces of the United States, to wit; men liable to be selected under Act of Congress approved May 18, 1917 for the military service ... an affidavit subscribed and sworn to by William E. Van Amburgh ...
8. ... did send or cause to be sent to one Jerry De Cecca, who was at the time a member of the military forces ... certain letters ... schedule G ...
9. ... did send and cause to be sent to one Carmello Nicita, who was at that time a member of the military ... certain letters ... Schedule H ... Schedule I ... All against the peace and dignity of the United States of America and contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided.
SECOND COUNT: (Repeated the same long introduction as above, except near the end:) ... ... persistently urge failure and refusal on the part of available persons to enlist in the military and naval forces of the United States and should and would, through and by the means above mentioned obstruct the recruiting and recruiting service of the United States ... to the injury of that service ...
(Sub-Counts 1 through 9 are the same as Item 1 of First Count)
THIRD COUNT: (Repeated nearly the same long introduction as above, except in addition to listing books, magazines and pamphlets, they added the ‘letters’ from above as Schedules B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I ... and near the middle of the Third Count said:) ... ... did unlawfully, willfully and feloniously attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and the refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States ... and by means of personal solicitations, letters, ...
(No Sub-Counts were stated, but considered the same incorporated by reference of the above Schedules.)
FOURTH COUNT: (Repeated nearly the same long introduction as above in the Third Count, except near the end of the Fourth Count said:) ... ... intending and attempting to cause and influence various persons available for military duty to fail to register and to refuse to submit to registration and draft for service in said military and naval forces and to fail and to refuse to enlist for services therein and by inciting others so to do, notwithstanding the requirements of said laws in that behalf and notwithstanding the patriotic duty of such persons and others to so register and submit to registration and draft so ... and notwithstanding the cowardice involved in such failure and refusal, all of which was to be accomplished by the use of all means and methods aforesaid as a protest against and as a forcible means of preventing, interfering with, hindering, and delaying the execution of said laws of the United States and also to interfere with hinder and delay the Government of the united States in its lawful efforts to build up and maintain an Army for the carrying on of said war ...
(No Sub-Counts were stated, but considered the same incorporated by reference of the above Schedules.)
Melville J. France,
United States Attorney for the
Eastern District of New York
(Note: All the Exhibits and Schedules are included in my Transcript except the “Finished Mystery”. I have a separate copy of that book. However, the “missing pages removed as a result of this trial are discussed in the Trial.)
Summary Comments: The Society would have JWs believe that the charges were trumped up and only involved some ‘spiritual truths, meat in due season’ found in the “Finished Mystery” book, and that the Society was simply publishing their beliefs on God’s Word, the Bible. The truth is, there were many Schedules and Exhibits involved that were more damning than the “book”, AND the Society’s officers and members were inciting people on active duty in the military and those about to be drafted to insubordination, refusal of duty and mutiny. This was far more serious than I ever understood as a JW.
Further, it is very important to understand that the Government needed to establish that the Bible Students were not an organized religion recognized for conscious objection, because they had no required Creed! This is why Joseph Rutherford subsequently strengthened the JW Creed, and forced the congregations of Bible Students to Register with the Society, and changed their religion into a controlled hierarchical system! This is why to this very day the Society has all JW congregations remind young JW men each year to register with the Selective Service upon reaching 18 years of age ... to avoid a similar lawsuit.
In subsequent parts, you will see that the Government proves that Joseph Rutherford & company were guilty as sin of the stated charges ... and that is why they were convicted. You will se that the Writ of Error was NOT any kind of “Exoneration” as claimed by the Society ... as a matter of Law they were not ever exonerated ... stay tuned ... to be continued ...
Part 4: Jury Selection ... Guess who is on the Jury?
Part 5: Cross-examination ... this is the really good stuff.
Part 6: Writ of Error ... Was JFR really Exonerated?
Part 7: Final Summation ... Did JFR rewrite History?